Standard – KVC Westerlo

The clash with Standard de Liège gradually grew into the match of the last chance to still have a view on the last coveted European ticket after the inferior start of both teams in these Europe Play-Offs. For our Kemphans, therefore, a scenario like last week against Cercle Brugge had to be avoided at all costs, but once again we started the evening with a late exit. Jordanov, for instance, had to swap his training uniform for his match outfit at the last minute to take Reynolds’ place in the starting line-up.

Line-up KVC Westerlo: S. Bolat, P. Perdichizzi, N. Chadli (78′ T. Dierckx), L. Van Eenoo (88′ M. Gümüskaya), N. Madsen (88′ R. Seigers), M. De Cuyper, E. Jordanov, R. Neustaedter, T. Van den Keybus, D. Nene (88′ G. Yow), Y. Matsuo

First half

Not only the late substitution made all that yellow and blue saw anxiously think back to the previous game, the early stages also caused an unpleasant flashback. After unfortunate ball loss just in front of their own goal, the home team swiftly tapped their way through the heart of the Westel defence. Zinckernagel did not fail face to face with Bolat, but saw his celebration punctured by the raised flag of the linesman. The latter, however, was in turn whistled back by VAR, who, after a lengthy intervention, whispered in Laforge’s ear to validate the goal. The early deficit was thus once again a reality.

Fortunately, our Kemphans’ reply did come sooner than last week. After a quick dribble from Dorgeles Nene – again him – Thomas Van den Keybus was able to fire at the home team’s goal for a first time, not much later Jordanov followed suit, but both were unable to frame their shot.

Standard took command again after the double mini wake-up call with attempts from Donnum, Cimirot and Ohio, but Bolat failed to trouble them. Who did make a goalkeeper’s heartbeat beat a tick faster was Nene. He was sent into the proverbial lane by Chadli just before half-time, but the angle was unfortunately too sharp for the Malian to force the equaliser. The 1-0 thus remained on the board. Coach De Roeck and co were given another 15 minutes to recover in the dressing room.

Second half

At the start of the second half, our Kemphians did immediately take command, but it took about ten minutes for that pressure to translate into a first real goal chance. Matsuo looked for Nene in front of goal, but his shot found Bodart’s leg. Nene must have thought he’d give it a go, but his cross was just too high for Madsen’s curling crest to frame his header.

Nene – again he – then not much later tried again himself with his head De Cuyper’s cross, but his header was not powerful enough to really worry Bodart.

The search for the equaliser, started to look more and more like the search mission for that of a needle in a haystack. Westerlo looked for the opening in the Rouches’ defence, but did not find it. At the other end, however, a pass from the substitute Balikwisha suddenly did split our rearguard in half. Emond did not hesitate face to face with Bolat and put the 2-0 mercilessly on the board.

Almost immediately after the local signaller had adjusted the scoreboard, he was almost allowed to start again, when De Cuyper’s cross hit the post over Bodart. So no deserved equaliser for our Kemphans and no extra notch to the credit of the vice-European assist king among the flank defenders.

Yet the belief among our Kemphans did not completely die down. With a long-distance shot by Van den Keybus and a rebound against the post by substitute Yow, Westerlo again went close to the Rouches’ goal, but again the ball would not go in.

Just when everyone seemed to be resigned to the 2-0 result, Jordanov suddenly shot a tight ball into the far corner, stunning Sclessin. Van den Keybus, in turn, completed the cold shower for the home crowd by targeting the same corner just minutes later. Like the supporters of the Liège hard core, home goalkeeper Bodart was also nailed to the ground. So in the absolute final minutes, our Kemphians still managed to salvage a deserved point in the Ardent City. Immediately the first points win in these Europe Play-Offs for KVCW, the harbinger of hopefully more fine results in the remaining matches in this post-competition.

Report: Glen Van Herck
Photos: Luc Meynaerts